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Editor's Note - 7 (December 1, 2008)

Saranaagathi From Reluctance To Action

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

Going through the analogy of Swami Desika in Srimath Rahasya Thraya Saaram -- How a citizen offers his belongings to the king even though everything automatically belongs to the king (Saanga Prapadhana Adhikaaram), made me enter the realm of the readiness and reluctance of people in performing Saranaagathi -- surrendering one's responsibility and soul unto the Lord. This is variously known as Prapathi, Bhara Nyasam, Bhara Samarpanam, etc. Let me share my thoughts on the subject without going into too much of technicalities, and assuming that the readers have a general idea about the subject.

A short recapitulation will be of help, though. Our Sampradaya is strongly rooted in the Vedas and Sasthras and has at the helm none other than Sriman Narayana Himself, who is our first preceptor. He has Himself pronounced about the Master-Servant (Sesha-Seshi) relationship between the Lord and the Jeevan and our subsequent Acharyas have unequivocally established the same. The soul, like any other thing in the universe, is the property of Sriman Narayana and it is our bounden duty to hand it back to the rightful owner at the earliest opportunity. This process is completed through performing Prapathi.

The ultimate objective of any religion worth its name is deliverance -- freedom from the vicious circle of births and the resultant worldly sufferings. According to our sampradaya, there are two ways prescribed in the Sasthras to achieve that goal.

One is Bhakthi (devotion) and the other is Prapathi (surrender). Bhakthi Yoga is time-consuming and impracticable, in the sense that it may require non-stop and single-minded devotion for an indefinite time traversing innumerable births. It is extremely difficult, highly improbable, unsuitable for this age and hence ruled out of viability. The Prapathi Marga guarantees Moksha at the end of the present birth, very easy to perform and prescribed by our Acharyas.

Even under the everything-to-gain situation vis-a-vis Prapathi, there used to be a considerable reluctance in the past among our people in performing it, due to various reasons, which are dealt with below. However, the situation is changing for the better. In the yesteryear only old people and critically ill persons used to do Saranaagathi. Now even youngsters are understanding its importance and coming forward to offer their soul to the Lord, in great number.

This transformation is a sort of divine revolution scripted with remarkable foresight by the present-day Acharyas of our Sampradaya. By travelling the length and breadth of the country, they are providing our people with opportunities to join the mainstream of our tradition. Their tireless and dedicated efforts over the years have instilled in tens of thousands of people's mind the indispensability of Prapathi and most of them have benefited from it. Hail to our Acharyas!

This they have achieved even if it meant they have to be considerate and flexible, keeping in mind the changing times. Now there is no longer the need for adherence to strict discipline and formalities unlike, say, until about thirty/forty years ago. Far from being a compromise, this approach is realistic and it brings to the fore our Acharyas' concern and mercy on us and ensures that the larger interest is not lost. The only cause for this conciliation is the Sishyas' well-being.

Against this backdrop, there strikes a slightly discordant note in the reluctance of a section of our people in the matter. The main reason for this is the mindset. There still is a misconception that Saranaagathi is inauspicious in a way, so much so, even connecting it with death. Nothing can be sillier than this. Prapathi is only a method through which one is assuring himself/herself of Moksha, only after death, whenever it occurs. Swami Desika's Prapathi in Nyasa Dasakam (4) is categorical on this.

ஸ்ரீமந் அபீஷ்ட வரத த்வாமஸ்மி சரணம் கத:!
ஏதத் தேஹாவஸாநே மாம் த்வத் பாதம் ப்ராபய ஸ்வயம்!!

"O! Consort of Lakshmi! Granter of desired boon! I am surrendering unto You; You Yourself should lead me to Your feet at the end of this body (life)."

Then again, some cite the reason of employment/vocation as the cause of reluctance and feel that they can do Prapathi after retirement. What has employment got to do with Saranaagathi? There is absolutely no relevance, except that it has been strongly etched in the mind that it is a post-retirement formality. But amidst the uncertainty of life, where is the guarantee for the distant future? So, it is earlier the better.

Another reason is that it would not be possible to lead an ideal, sin-free, post-Prapathi life. No one can be perfect. The important thing is the full intent backed by maximum possible effort. So long as we are here, we are never going to rid of sins. It comes as part of the package. So, this argument also would not hold water.

In a nutshell, the reasons to perform and the benefits derived out of it are many. Also, it is our duty and the Lord expects us to do it. It is not something one can accomplish only after a hard toil and sweat. It is a matter of hardly a few hours and is easy to perform. Acharyas are ever so eager and willing to lift us. No hard and fast rules to be followed for this. It is not expensive either. It straight away reserves a place in the Lord's abode after this birth.

But one should be wary of mainly a couple of things after Prapathi. Unswerving devotion to and faith in Sriman Narayana (only) is a must and there should be no disrespect towards the Devotees of the Lord (Bhagavathas). Any other thing, He won't mind in a big way.

So, whichever way one sees it, Prapathi is imperative for each one of us. Those who have already performed it, relax and savour the divine experience. For others, it is time to act.

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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